The Romney campaign may have misfired with its suggestion that statements by President Obama and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice about the Benghazi attack last month weren’t supported by intelligence, according to documents provided by a senior U.S. intelligence official…

“We believe the timing of the attack was influenced by events in Cairo,” the senior official said, reaffirming the Cairo-Benghazi link. He said that judgment is repeated in a new report prepared this week for the House intelligence committee…

“It was a flash mob with weapons,” is how the senior official described the attackers. The mob included members of the Ansar al-Sharia militia, about four members of al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, and members of the Egypt-based Muhammad Jamal network, along with other unarmed looters.

The official said the only major change he would make now in the CIA’s Sept. 15 talking points would be to drop the word “spontaneous” and substitute “opportunistic.” He explained that there apparently was “some pre-coordination but minimal planning.”

***

Tarek, an off-duty police sergeant who asked that his full name be withheld to shield him from reprisals, said he came to the scene about an hour after the attack began and found militants blocking the road leading to the compound.

“They drew their guns on me and they told me that the Americans were abusing our prophet,” he said. “That’s why they said they had come to fight.”…

Libyan guards who served as the security force at the U.S. compound said the mob was made up of disparate types, some who appeared to be experienced fighters and others who were not. There were long-bearded men whose faces were obscured by scarves in the style of practiced militants and called each other “sheik.” But there also were younger men, some who looked like teenagers with wispy beards on their uncovered faces.

***

The L.A. Times says that “U.S. intelligence agencies…have found no evidence of Al Qaeda participation.” That is contradicted by numerous other accounts and by the Post’s latest version. The Post reports that intelligence “suggests the attack was spontaneous even if it involved militants with ties to al-Qaeda.”…

More than one month after Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in a terrorist attack, “intelligence officials” cannot even provide the press with a consistent account of what happened. And keep in mind that neither account says that there was a protest before the attack, which was the original story given to the American public…

The New York Times’s account of [Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb] sounds eerily similar to a storyline that some Obama administration officials and their surrogates have been pushing. They claim that groups such as AQIM are just “local” jihadist groups that are not really al Qaeda, per se, because they don’t want to attack the West. This is nonsense for many reasons, but this argument has mysteriously migrated into the press’s reporting on the Benghazi attack…

[T]hese latest accounts are not intended to comb through the evidence carefully. They are intended to provide political cover [for Obama] ahead of the final presidential debate.

***

The “spontaneous” talking point came from an intercepted telephone call between jihadists, in which one of the attackers notes that his group had attacked after seeing the demonstrations in Cairo. U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence on Benghazi tell THE WEEKLY STANDARD there are two schools of thought on what that means. The first view is reflected in the administration’s “spontaneous” line. It holds that jihadists in Benghazi saw the demonstration in Egypt and decided, almost on a whim, to assault the compound. But the nature of the attack—the weapons, the sequencing, the coordination—suggests more planning. The attackers flushed Americans from the compound toward an “annex” two kilometers away. As the Americans fled, they encountered (and avoided) an attempted ambush on the route.

The second view is that the demonstrations in Cairo, which followed the release of a video from al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri on September 10, were seen as something of a “go signal.” As we first reported on September 12, the film, in this view, was merely the pretext for an al Qaeda “information operation,” and the Zawahiri video, which called directly for renewed jihad and for al Qaeda sympathizers to avenge the death of Abu Yaya al Libi, was intended to trigger protests and assaults throughout the region. Many of those with prominent roles in the protests and assaults—in Egypt, Tunisia, and perhaps Libya—had strong ties to al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan…

One thing that has troubled both intelligence officials and those on Capitol Hill as they have evaluated the administration’s early response to the attacks is what appears to be an effort to write al Qaeda out of the story. For example, the talking points first reported by Lake, include this sentence: “There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.” But according to several officials familiar with the original assessment from which the talking points were derived, the U.S. intelligence community had reported the fact that these were extremists with ties to al Qaeda. That key part was omitted.

Why was that language dropped from the talking points distributed to Congress and Obama administration officials?

***

If the president really wants to level with the American people, here are some questions he needs to answer…

Is there any intelligence product—raw or finished—that links the attacks in Benghazi to the anti-Islam YouTube video?

If not, why did President Obama himself make a direct link between the film and the attack during his September 18 appearance on the David Letterman show?

***

CBS News has been told that, hours after the attack began, an unmanned Predator drone was sent over the U.S. mission in Benghazi, and that the drone and other reconnaissance aircraft apparently observed the final hours of the protracted battle…

But it was too late to help the Americans in Benghazi. The ambassador and three others were dead.

Retired CIA officer Gary Berntsen believes help could have come much sooner. He commanded CIA counter-terrorism missions targeting Osama bin Laden and led the team that responded after bombings of the U.S. Embassy in East Africa.

“You find a way to make this happen,” Berntsen says. “There isn’t a plan for every single engagement. Sometimes you have to be able to make adjustments. They made zero adjustments in this. They stood and they watched and our people died.”

***

The sophisticated criticism of President Obama’s Libya policy is this:

Obama intervened in Libya despite his awareness that the anti-Gaddafi rebels had pro-al-Qaeda leanings. He intervened to support those rebels because he hoped to prove to Islamists everywhere in the Middle East and North Africa that they had more to gain from co-operating with the United States than from fighting the United States. This is the famous “opening to political Islam” that has been so intensely discussed in Washington.

And the opening continues. It continues in the form of the covert aid now reportedly flowing to the Syrian rebels, and in the soft line being taken with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president even after Egyptian police failed to protect the U.S. embassy in Cairo against attack (which also was on 9/11). If the opening failed in Libya, it’s likely to fail even worse in Syria, where the rebel groups are even more saturated with Salafist Islam than the Libyan rebels…

President Obama’s big risky Mideast gambit is failing badly.

***

Via the Daily Caller.

***

Content warning.

***